The new prayer book

Published June 11, 2015

(This story was first published in the September 1918 issue of the Canadian Churchman.)

The almost impossible is accomplished. The Book of Common Prayer has been enriched, revised and made more adaptable to the needs of the Church people of Canada. It still remains Reformed, Protestant, Apostolic and reasonably Catholic. There has been a conscious nervousness throughout Canada lest unholy hands should take from us, or at least make unrecognizable, our sacred heritage. Our fears are now allayed and soon the book will be in our hands.

Instead of their [sic] being two bitterly antagonistic parties – one ultra-conservative, the other ultra-radical – there seemed to be one large party – sane, sober, tolerant, conciliatory and progressive. The members of the Church in general never can know the enormous amount of time and work which the Revision Committee must have devoted to this great undertaking. When at last, on the afternoon of September 20th, the General Synod adopted the Book as revised, it is not surprising that all stood and with much feeling sang the Doxology. It was a great work amicably and nobly completed.

In the preamble of the report the Secretary told us that: “The Committee has had before it for consideration, recommendations from the Synod of the Ecclesiastical Province of British Columbia, from the Synod of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario, from the Synod of the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada, from the Synod of the Diocese of New Westminster, from various Rural Deaneries, from the Sunday School Commission and other bodies, and many suggestions from the clergy and laity, all of which have received the most careful study. In some case they have been adopted in form or in substance. Others again have not been accepted on various grounds.” The Synod of New Westminster sent in 79 suggestions for changes, while the diocese of Kootenay, and the Provincial Synod of Canada, besides several other bodies, made many requests for changes.

The question of holding over the report until the more normal after-war conditions never was mentioned by the General Synod. Indeed, the strong appeal of the Primate, in his opening address, made it almost a certainty that a finality would be reached this Synod. The Bishop of Huron, who presented the report, and upon whom was placed the difficult task day after day of guiding the whole discussion, explained at the outset what a sense of responsibility was his. His desire was that, since the thought of revision has been before the Church for 22 years, the report of the Revision Committee should be adopted at this Synod and confirmed at the next. Right well did he accomplish his task.

At the very beginning it was made quite clear that the compact entered into by the Committee of making no change in principle of doctrine, must be strictly carried out. Several times during the Synod, when controversial matters were introduced, the Primate was asked to give his ruling. His firm and wise decisions kept the Synod of the great central road of sanity and tolerance. All through, the notes of Canadianism and reality were sounded.

The principal features which differentiate the book from the last revision made three years ago are:-

  1. Revision of many prayers.
  2. Special services amended to make them suitable for Canada.
  3. The inclusion of three new services – namely,
    1. National Thanksgiving.
    2. Family Prayer.
    3. For Children.
  4. Substitution of the new lectionary as prepared by the Convocation of Canterbury and York.

The prefatory part seemed to be unusually long consisting of directions how to follow the services in the book. This was much shortened, however, by the decision to permit the Act of Uniformity only in the official copies of the Prayer Book and also in Desk copies. The new lectionary which follows, is that prepared by the Convocation of Canterbury and York. A number of changes were made in the Calendar, which can only be understood by the comparison of the old with the new.


There was [sic] some strong objections made to several of the opening sentences on the ground that they were not sufficiently penitential. They remain, however, as in the draft book, which so many have been using, only that Hab. 2:20 has been added. The penitential sentences are to be used after those for special days. In order to impress more the personality of God upon our children’s minds, and also for the purpose of bringing the language more into conformity with our modern usage, the word “Who” is used instead of “which” in the Lord’s Prayer. “Bishops and Clergy” is to be used instead of “Bishops and Curates.”

There was an evident desire on the part of many to avoid repetition by omitting the second Lord’s Prayer. Different speakers drew attention to the various uses of this great prayer. The Bishop of Yukon pleaded for a permissive use of the second Lord’s Prayer. On a vote being taken, it was carried by the Lower House, but defeated in the Upper.

Permission was given for the use of special prayers after the Third Collect:

The Committee introduced a lengthy Bidding Prayer before Sermons, Lectures and Homilies. This provoked a lengthy discussion. It was claimed that the psychological effect would be good. Prayer of such sort was a mental force creating concentration of mind. The Bidding Prayer was finally adopted with a permissive rubric.

The Bishop of Kootenay urged that the prayer for the King be used separately, but the great Imperial prayer in the draft book is to be retained as a masterpiece of brevity and comprehensiveness.

Prayers for the Parish, for Sunday Schools, for Workmen and Employers of Labour, a Great Oriental General Intercession, for Memorial Services, and for a Safe Return from Sea, are to be inserted. These prayers are true enrichments of the Book of Common Prayer. The Bishop of Ontario advocated optional services for the evening. This very radical and much desired move was made with the intent of simplifying the evening service. The House of Bishops wished to consider this matter and report. They later sent down this message: “That the Bishops, while in complete sympathy with the proposal of the Bishop of Ontario for the authorization of a simpler form of service to be used in special circumstances and under proper safeguards instead of the Order of Evening Prayer, do not recommend that such an authorization should be embodied in a rubric in the Book of Common Prayer, but the House of Bishops will take this matter into careful consideration with a view to meeting the need for such a service.”


To be sung or said at Morning Prayer on Trinity Sunday instead of the Apostles’ Creed, by the Minister and people standing; and that the “Text of the QUICUNQUE VULT, pp. 103-6, be printed in the Lambeth translation (so called).

Such was the rubric around which a royal ecclesiastical battle was waged. We all felt that the Athanasian Creed would be the storm centre of the Synod. It was. The Bishop of Huron, who introduced the subject, very clearly argued for the acceptance of the new rubric, making it obligatory to have the Creed said or sung on Trinity Sunday only. He said that was an attempt at a compromise between those who wished it to be removed altogether, and those who desired its use as formerly. He pleaded for charity on the part of all towards the opinions of those with whom they differed. He called it the great battle hymn of the Trinitarian faith. With this statement there was no disagreement. He said that in the Creeds it is the Church, not the individual. The statements in the Creed, he said, were in keeping with those of our Lord, and the Church must use His words. He drew attention to the honour which the Church gives to The Trinity, in that half of the Sundays are after Trinity, not after Pentecost, and therefore this Trinitarian Creed should be retained.

Archdeacon Paterson Smyth moved that “it be printed without note or rubric.” This, of course, meant that it be considered as an ancient and historic document, no longer binding upon the Church as one of her Creeds. This was seconded by Rev. Dr. Allnatt, who drew attention to two facts: (1) That the majority of the Bishops of Canterbury had already placed themselves on record as maintaining that the damnatory or minatory clauses state more than Scripture warrants; and (2) that all the best living scholars agree with the declaration of the majority of the Bishops.

The Rev. Dr. Cayley, in a most earnest speech, pleaded for its exclusion as being contrary to the teaching of Holy Scripture. He referred to Article VI., and said that it was in conflict with the ordination vows, and declared that if it were retained, many would be forced to disobey. It is a provincial, not a catholic creed. The Church of Ireland and the Protestant Episcopal Church had already rejected it.

Captain the Rev. G.A. Kuhring and Mr. Charles Jenkins, stood faithfully to the old Creed and the old phraseology, and pointed out that it would transgress the original compact which alone made it possible to start the revision. Mr. Lansing Lewis took his stand with the more radical party, as did the Rev. Dyson Hague and Rev. C.R. Littler, in their desire for the removal of the damnatory clauses. They claimed: “It will then be possible to thoroughly agree with Article VIII., which refers to the Creeds. A new day of hope and concord will come when we can all repeat the Creed with the objectionable features eliminated.” Prof. Cosgrave did not want the wording of this ancient document mutilated. Rev. Dr. Seagar supported the motion of Dr. Paterson Smyth. He said (1) Liturgically, it is an innovation, having been introduced in 1662. (2) There was a danger in the use of this Creed of having it take the place of the Nicene. (3) Its retention was likely to put a greater barrier between us and other communions.

The Bishop of Montreal declared himself to be on the side of those who wished relief by the removal of the minatory sentences, as also was the Prolocutor, Dean Llwyd. The Bishop of Columbia claimed that he could no longer conscientiously ask her clergy to subscribe to that which he could not himself believe and, if the Synod decided to make the use of the sentences obligatory, he would have to place himself in the hands of his Metropolitan.

At this juncture the Bishop of Huron declared that he did not want the Prayer Book to be a museum of antiquity.

It was a great debate before a crowded house – a debate that can only be heard once in a lifetime. Surely the giants are not all dead. There was intense interest in the vote on Dr. Paterson Smyth’s amendment. The vote was taken by orders – each one answering “Yes” or “No,” as his name was called. When the vote was counted the amendment was declared lost by a very narrow majority in the Lower House.

At this juncture another amendment to the Revision Committee’s report was introduced by the Rev. F.H. Graham, of Kootenay, which is as follows: “Upon any day in the year, instead of the Apostles’ Creed, may be said or sung the Creed of St. Athanasius.” This was carried by the Lower House, the Upper House concurring. No clergyman need ever read the Creed unless he desires; while on the other hand, those who wish may have it every day in the year. The responsibility is with the clergyman.

At last the Athanasian Creed is out of the way. Probably never again, at least in our day, will such a debate be heard in any of our great Synods. If this Synod’s work be confirmed at the next General Synod, the Creed will be quite optional in the Church of England in Canada.


There were but minor changes made in these.

A special Collect, Epistle and Gospel was introduced from the Scottish Prayer Book for those recently married and for those bereaved. Epistles and Gospels for Rogation Days and Ember Days are to be placed after the Gospel for All Saints’ Day, but the Collects are to be left in their present place.

There was also added another Collect for Christmastide. The word “damned,” on p. 231 of the draft book, is to be changed to “condemned.”

Minor changes were made in the service for Holy Communion. The motion of Dean Shreve, of Quebec, asking that the Prayer of Oblation and the Invocation of the Holy Ghost be a part of the Communion Service was ruled out of order by the Primate. There were but a few changes of words and the addition of two offertory services. With these exceptions this glorious service was left unchanged.

The Ministration of Private Baptism.-Permission was given for laymen to baptize if necessity required by presenting the following rubric:

That if no lawful minister may be had and the child be in danger of death, then let one of those present pour water upon him and say: N., I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

The Catchism [sic]-A number of charges were made – principally by way of placing the names of the subjects dealt with at the head of sections, and also the word or subject is to be repeated in the answer.

In the Order of Confirmation.-Several Scripture passages were added and all are to be taken from the Revised Version.


The following changes were made: That for all the words, p. 395, in the draft book, from “First, it was ordained,” down to “into which holy estate,” the following be substituted: “Matrimony was ordained for the hallowing of the union betwixt man and woman; for the procreation of children to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord; and for the mutual society, help and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, in both prosperity and adversity.” Also, when the question is asked “Who giveth this woman, etc.,” the answer shall be: “I do.”

The Table of Kindred and Affinity has been much modernized, and the number of kindreds and affinities reduced from 30 to 18.

The Order for the Visitation of the Sick has been much improved by classifying the passages of Scripture suitable for reading. The other principal changes have to do with “words” and “sentences.”

In the Order for the Burial of the Dead the latter part of the second sentence is deleted and St. John 14:1, 2 is added, and also the following grace:-

“The God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ; to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

An excellent service is provided for Dominion Day and other occasions of National Thanksgiving.

Prayers for The People of the Dominion. Thanksgivings for

  1. Our Goodly Heritage.
  2. Confederation
  3. God’s General Blessings.
  4. The Empire.

In the Service for Missions several of the prayers are rewritten and thus improved. This is also true in the Thanksgiving for the Blessings of Heaven.


This is to be put among the occasional services. Two services were presented, one by the Revision Committee, the other by the Sunday School Commission. The Bishop of Huron advocated the former, the Rev. Dr. Rexford the latter.

The Bishop of Huron wanted a service of such a nature that the children would be the better trained in the Church Service. Dr. Rexford claimed that psychology must be considered, and the interest of the child must not be sacrificed to the interest of liturgiology.

The debate on this question was, perhaps, only second in interest to that on the Athanasian Creed. When at last the vote was taken, both Houses accepted the service proposed by the Sunday School Commission, and this was finally adopted after many changes, arrived at by mutual agreement. To those who are interested in the young this service will be a most acceptable addition to the Book of Common Prayer.


A large number of appropriate prayers for both morning and evening are to be inserted and placed last in the book. All good Church people will be grateful for this. It should be a means of inducing many to have daily family prayer.

This is but a brief outline of the great work of Prayer Book revision. Necessarily, many changes have not been noticed, while many others have been very imperfectly recorded because of the limitations of space.


This committee consisted of all the Bishops in the Dominion, besides 54 members of the Lower House. Out of this were selected 32, who constituted the Executive Committee. The whole Canadian Church owes a great debt of gratitude to this committee for its wise and untiring labour. Three members of this committee easily stand out, however, as being worthy of special praise.

The Primate, Archbishop Matheson, of Rupert’s Land. He is a great chairman. His very appearance inspires confidence. When a member from the west once suggested that the Primate was scarcely fair in his last ruling, the House with no uncertainty demanded a withdrawal of his statement. Wise, firm, tolerant, kind, he ever held the two Houses in complete control when a weaker man could scarcely have stored up the ecclesiastical electricity which at times was manifestly present. His wise guidance must have been invaluable all through the years when this large committee with such a diversity of views was doing the spade work of the revision. It was during the time he was presiding over both House of the General Synod that he celebrated his sixty-seventh birthday, and the forty-third anniversary was of his ordination. This event was unitedly and feelingly commemorated. The Church of England in Canada has reason to thank God for its Primate.

The Bishop of Huron, as vice-chairman and convener of the Revision Committee, has had much to do with the revision. No one knew better than he the many contentious points which would have to be cleared up and the many dangerous corners which would have to be safely turned. He went at his difficult task of presenting the report of the committee with the assurance of one who knew. Day after day he was in his place, arguing, explaining, assuring – a real defender of the Faith. When at times he found that the opinion of the House was against him, he quickly found some “via media” which would satisfy all concerned. The testimony voiced by the Bishop of Fredericton to the value of the ability of the Bishop of Huron all through this difficult work was applauded most heartily by the whole House.

Archdeacon Armitage, of Halifax, secretary of the Revision Committee. It is said that the Archdeacon had a steamer trunk full of books and documents sent to the Synod so that he might, by appealing to original works, refute all the faulty arguments of the unlearned. As he sat quietly on the platform, you knew that in the secretary’s book before him there was the storehouse of the committee’s labours, and at any moment it could be effectively used. There never was an instance when any appeal was made to him that the final answer was not given. One marvels at the amount of work which the Archdeacon was able to do. Only those who know his capacity for work can at all understand how he was able to attend to all the correspondence and perform with such a degree of perfection the many duties of his office, and this gratuitously, for, as he said, it was a work of love. Testimony to his great work and his unfailing courtesy through it all was feelingly expressed by the Archbishop of Algoma, the Bishop of Montreal, Chancellor Davidson, the Bishop of Ontario, and the Rev. F.H. Graham, and the hope expressed that he might find it possible to publish in some permanent form the immense amount of liturgical and Prayer Book knowledge which he has been able to gather.


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